Relocating from Auckland pays off for family.

By Lisa, Jayne and Harper Bronkhorst-Barrett.


Our story may sound familiar to many people who have lived in large cities.

We are a family of three, and regardless of Auckland’s growing unaffordable property market, we managed somehow, to find ourselves on the property ladder.

Despite living within close proximity to work, we were still not living the kiwi dream. Our two bedroom townhouse had no garden for our daughter to play in, and the Auckland traffic managed to affect the lifestyle we desired.

We decided to have a family meeting about moving out of Auckland, and residing in a lesser populated community. This was with the view of improving our lifestyle and being able to spend more quality time together as a family. We ensured our four year old daughter was included in the decision making process.

We are both Registered Anaesthetic Technicians, so our first challenge was to find employment in a smaller town. An opportunity arose on the West Coast at the District Health Board (DHB). We investigated further, and the response we received was very warm and friendly. It was this reaction that led us to apply for the position.

The West Coast ticked many boxes that we sought after; affordable housing, less traffic, a close supportive community, and good primary schools. However, the deal clincher for our daughter, was the promise of owning a home with a garden big enough for a trampoline!

The West Coast DHB was instrumental in making our move here as stress-free as possible. Over the last 10 months, our transition and integration into a smaller community has been pleasantly easy, and very welcoming.

When we told our friends we were moving to the West Coast it was met with some scepticism. One of the major concerns seemed to be about the amount of rainfall the West Coast is renowned for. We have however been pleasantly surprised with the weather. Yes it rains and when it rains, it rains a lot, but we do have a lot of sunshine too, and this allows plenty of opportunity to enjoy all of our outdoor activities.

We are currently building our new home, and our daughter has happily settled into school life with thanks to the wonderful staff at Paroa School.

Our lifestyle has greatly improved. As a family, we are able to do more together now, as we have more time to spend doing the things we like. The outdoor lifestyle suits our family very well, and we enjoy spending time on our bicycle’s exploring the stunning West Coast Wilderness Trail. There is so much to do and see, and we never grow tired of the rugged, untouched beautiful environment we have on our door step.

Overall, our move to the West Coast has been a huge success and one that we would recommend to anyone considering a change for the better.

Lisa, Jayne and Harper


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Working from homePhoto: Stewart Nimmo

An untamed natural wilderness as inspiration.

Advances in digital technologies and an inspiring backyard are making the West Coast a hub for creative artisans. Nestled between the snow-capped Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea, the West Coast is an area renowned for its inspirational natural environment.

“From pounamu carvers to booker prize winning authors, the West Coast landscape has long attracted and inspired creative people,” says Development West Coast chief executive Chris Mackenzie.

“Advances in digital technologies are opening new opportunities, enabling people to live where they want, and do business with the world. This has led to a new generation of pioneering artisans who have chosen to live on the Coast for the lifestyle, while selling their products online to wider markets,” he says.

Nuzzle Baby

Photo: Jules Anderson

Nuzzle Baby.

Tessa Lindsay’s business, Nuzzle Baby, is a perfect example that geography is no-longer a barrier to doing business, especially when talent, passion and the internet are involved.

Tessa and her husband were born and bred in Queenstown but were looking for a change. When her sister-in-law encouraged them to move to Westport they jumped at the opportunity.

In 2014 they welcomed their first child, who was born with severe breathing and feeding issues.

“I wanted to make sure that what he played with was safe and enjoyable for him, organic and free from toxins, so it wouldn’t affect his breathing at all,” she says.

Tessa started designing products that would be safe, engaging and nurturing for her son. Seeing the enjoyment he was getting laid the seeds for her business, Nuzzle Baby.

Tessa began making eco-friendly baby toys while her son was sleeping and selling them online.

“Being an online business means you can live wherever you love and for us that’s right here in Westport. We want to bring our children up in a relaxed small-town environment. And being able to draw inspiration from the nature and landscape around me has been a huge influence in finding my unique style,” Tessa says.


Blue Spur Milk and Honey

Blue Spur Milk and Honey.

Sick of the city-life, Miriam Rees and her family moved to the West Coast. They eventually purchased a lifestyle block just outside of Hokitika in Blue Spur.

Their property soon became home to an array of animals: goats, sheep, ducks, geese, chickens, bees and their dog Zeb.

Miriam became busy taking up new hobbies. She learnt beekeeping and would use her goat’s milk to make cheese and soap.

She started experimenting, adding honey from her hives to her goat’s milk soap and making solid hand lotion bars using her beeswax. With the help of her goats and bees, she found she could craft many different natural products and so her business ‘Blue Spur Milk and Honey’ was born.

Miriam now handcrafts a range of rustic beauty products that encapsulate the untamed natural wilderness she is surrounded by. She avoids plastics, only using environmentally friendly packaging.

“There’s no point making a beautiful natural product and then wrapping it in plastic! The charm of the West Coast is its raw natural beauty, and we want to keep it that way,” she says.


 Kira Birchfield Jeweller

Kira Birchfield Jeweller.

After nine years away travelling and studying, Kira Birchfield moved back to the West Coast with her husband. From her home workshop south of Hokitika, she has setup a new business – Kira Birchfield Jeweller.

“My pieces reflect my connection to this unique landscape. I immerse myself in the West Coast surroundings – the rugged landscapes create incredible silhouettes, patterns, inspiration!” Kira says.

“I am passionate about the art of the hand-made. I melt, form, roll, drill and polish precious materials to make unique artworks. Making work that is connected to the West Coast is important to me.

"Having the freedom to work from home with such inspiring surroundings is something I am grateful for. Being able to head out for a morning horse ride along the beach before heading into my workshop is just magic," Kira says.


According to Chris Mackenzie, the ability of these artisans, and others like them, to carve out their own niches is a testament to the West Coast’s appeal as a digitally connected region, allowing people to run successful businesses remotely “all while enjoying the superior West Coast lifestyle."



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The West Coast has always attracted pioneering people – from Māori trading pounamu to those who flocked here during the goldrush days.

Back in 1867 Wellington's postmaster got a promotion. Where did this step up in his career take him? To the West Coast of course - the Charleston Post office. The Coast has always been the place to be, and Coasters have always been trailblazers.

In 1888 Reefton was the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to get electricity, even before London and New York. In 1934 New Zealand’s first scheduled air service began from Hokitika.

Gold mining may have shifted to blockchain mining, but the pioneering spirit remains. People are still moving to the Coast for the opportunities this amazing region offers.

Picking up and starting afresh in a new town may feel like a scary prospect. Especially if that means selling your home and moving to another part of the country, without the comfort of your current networks.

But it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge.

The work-life balance the West Coast offers comes with the added bonus of support from an organisation specifically set up to promote employment and economic benefits in the region.

Development West Coast (DWC) was established in 2001 with the mandate to manage, invest and distribute income from a $92m fund allocated by the Government. This fund was an adjustment package for the loss of indigenous forestry and the privatisation of infrastructure on the West Coast in the late 1990s.

DWC works hard for the community, promoting sustainable employment opportunities and generating economic benefits for the entire region.

A move to the West Coast from a city as large as Auckland would present many opportunities – first and foremost for Auckland home owners, the difference in purchasing power for a home on the Coast would be a significant financial advantage.

So with cash in hand and a business dream to pursue, tapping into the support of DWC in setting up and getting that new business off the ground is a no-brainer. The DWC team offers a wide range of business services, commercial finance and other assistance to help businesses grow.

Broadway Tearooms & Bakery

Since 2001 many West Coast businesses have accessed assistance from DWC. This includes Paul Thomas, joint owner of the Broadway Tearooms & Bakery, who has utilised a range of DWC services.

Paul is one of the many passionate people involved in the revitalisation of the small West Coast town of Reefton. Over the years community groups have worked hard to bring back the distinctive character of the town’s heritage shop buildings, many of which reflected their goldfields character from the 1870s but had been modified over time to compromise their appearance.

Born from this vision was the Reefton ‘Shop Front’ project, where DWC provided a commercial loan to a community-led group, who were then able to on lend to shop owners at very reasonable rates, enabling business owners to renovate their shop fronts in a heritage style.

According to Paul, the idea of the Reefton Shop Front project was to emphasise Reefton’s distinctiveness; make it stand out from other towns, to engender pride from locals, to create a destination for visitors and to develop the town economically.

“The investment by DWC into Reefton through the shop front project was an innovative model, a leap of faith at the time for community-led economic development, a leap of faith at the time for the investment made, but it has created immeasurable results that have ensured the town’s long-term sustainability,” Paul says.

“Local people now have great pride in their place. Visitors stream in, people desire to come and live here, and people are upbeat about the town’s economy.”

And that is exactly what DWC’s support is for – assisting our present-day pioneers and ensuring the West Coast’s economy thrives. So if you have always wanted to leave the daily grind behind, why not consider the West Coast. With its lifestyle options, and business development support and digital accessibility, this exciting, growing region has something for everyone.

Broadway Tearooms and Bakery


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The little Region that canPhoto: Stephen Roberts

Escape the concrete jungle.

The days of needing an office “in the city” are long gone and many companies are eyeing the regions as workers seek cheaper housing, family friendly lifestyles and that feel of New Zealand as it used to be.

Advances in technology now allow people to live wherever they want and for some that is among the truly stunning landscapes of the West Coast. This gradual migration of workers from the traffic jams and stress of the city will likely find work with unemployment levels on the West Coast well below the New Zealand average, at only 3.3 percent. This means business owners are always on the lookout for skilled staff.

Data from Statistics NZ shows Aucklanders spend about 450 hours a year in a car. Why waste your life stuck in the traffic when instead that valuable time could be spent on the West Coast with your family cycling, fishing, hiking, surfing – or just sitting back and watching a glorious sunset.

“The West Coast is no concrete jungle,” says Development West Coast chief executive Chris Mackenzie. “There are no traffic jams, no motorway congestion - but nor is it isolated. It has high speed internet, two airports and good roads and rail. Those who live and work here are easily connected to their clients and customers around the country and the world.”

Development West Coast works closely with local and central government, other economic development organisations, and business support providers, to encourage and support business to set up in the region and to promote sustainable employment. The assistance the agency gives ranges from commercial finance to business support and capability development through business mentoring, workshops and training assistance.

“The West Coast is home to thriving industries in IT, manufacturing, agribusiness and so much more,” Mackenzie says. “Thanks to the region’s natural beauty and rich history, it is one of the fastest-growing tourist areas in New Zealand.”

Coasters are renowned for their pioneering spirit: they have always led the way in New Zealand, from goldmining to blockchain mining. Now, digital technologies are allowing the Little Region That Can to be competitive in international markets: software for many leading gaming companies such as EA and Disney started here, and can-do locals are carving out niches for successful online businesses.

You don't need to be a maths wizard to see the advantages of moving from a big city to the West Coast. Auckland's median house price is around a million dollars. In comparison, on the West Coast the quarter-acre section is still a reachable reality. Median house prices hover around $200,000 and each window is likely to offer a view of magnificent mountains, primeval forest, deep and silent rivers and dramatic coastlines.

This is a region that boasts what are arguably some of the New Zealand’s most stunning landscapes: a drive up the coast towards the world-famous Punakaiki Rocks on the edge of the magnificent Paparoa Regional Park will offer a different perspective and mood every time. Life is simpler on the West Coast and it is easy to see why people love to live and work here, says Mackenzie: “You can live by the sea and still have views of the snow-covered alps – with thriving cafes just a walk away.”

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The Kiwi dream alive and well.

The days of buying a first home with a quarter-acre section may seem a long way out of reach for city-dwellers in Auckland. With median house prices over a million dollars the dream of getting on the property ladder must feel exactly like that – a dream.

No wonder 33,000 people left Auckland in the four years to 2017, and many of them have found welcoming and supportive communities in the bustling small towns that dot the landscape on the West Coast of the South Island.

No concrete jungle. No traffic jams. No motorway congestion. These are just some of the advantages of living on the West Coast. And then there’s the wonderful natural landscape, high speed internet, close proximity to two airports and excellent roads ensuring those who live and work here are easily connected to clients and customers around the globe.

Indeed Westport has more sunshine hours than most of Auckland and that’s just as well given the plethora of outdoor pursuits the region has to offer – from hiking and cycling to fishing, hunting, water skiing and boating. The West Coast offers a backyard of exciting weekend activities, and you’ll have more time and money to enjoy it.

Yes Auckland incomes may be high compared to most parts of the country, but that comes with far more financial pressure. Auckland house prices are over 15 times that of annual earnings, compare that to the West Coast where the median house price hovers around $200,000 - not even four times average annual earnings. If you buy on the Coast your mortgage will be smaller, you’ll be debt free faster and have more disposable income to spend on what you want in life.

The Coast welcomes businesses.

The digital age means the days of needing an office in a big city are long gone. Today West Coast businesses are busy leveraging digital technologies to be competitive in international markets.

“Business opportunities are aplenty here. In addition to the new industries digital technologies are enabling, the region has thriving sectors in manufacturing and agribusiness, and so much more,” says Development West Coast (DWC) chief executive Chris Mackenzie.

“Thanks to the region’s natural beauty and rich history, it is one of the fastest-growing tourist areas in New Zealand with all the opportunities that provides.”

If you want a clean start in a new location and the opportunity to start up a new business of your own, the business services on offer from regional development organisation Development West Coast are here to support you.

The employment market is also buoyant. Unemployment levels are incredibly low on the Coast, at only 3.3 per cent they are far below rates in Auckland. This means business owners are always on the lookout for skilled staff.

Leave the traffic and bring the family.

Aucklanders on average waste 80 hours annually stuck in traffic jams - essentially two unpaid working weeks a year. On the Coast, where traffic jams are unheard of, that extra time could be spent with your family enjoying the untamed natural wilderness on your doorstep.

The Coast is the perfect place to bring up children. You’ll not only be able to spend more time with them but also have more disposable income to spend on their upbringing. They’ll grow up surrounded by grass rather than asphalt, and the sound of birds instead of traffic.

And education is a key focus on the Coast. Good high schools in Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika provide the region’s young adults with stepping stones to a profitable working life, and the Greymouth-based Tai Poutini Polytechnic offers a wide range of technical study options.

Innovation rules.

The West Coast business community has always been pioneering, leveraging the latest technologies to open up new opportunities, whether that was during the gold rush of the 1800s or the present day block chain mining.

There is a unique balance on the West Coast however. The acute awareness of being future-focused is matched with the appreciation of the region’s rich history. Living and working on the West Coast, it is difficult to ignore the stories of the founding fathers - true pioneers and trail blazers. The resilient nature of Coasters transcends the generations, making for a community of hard workers. And they are a friendly bunch, just pop into one of the region’s many cafes for a coffee and a yarn, and it won’t be too long before you’ll feel at home.

That’s why a recent opinion survey by DWC found 70 per cent of local businesses rated quality of life here as an advantage over any other region in New Zealand. Time for a change? Why don’t you join us!


Where would you rather be?



West Coast




Land area

4,894 km2

23,276 km2

Median house price



Average weekly rent



Mean annual earnings



Unemployment rate



Average annual sunshine hours:

2,198 hrs (Northshore)

2,243 hrs (Westport)

Average time spent annually stuck in traffic jams:

80 hrs

What’s a traffic jam?

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